Chaperoned Bentley

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Last month’s story about taking Richard Shaw’s delectable 1937 41/2-litre Vanden Plas Bentley to the RREC Courteenhall Rally recalls memories of my first encounter with a Derby-built Bentley. This came at a time when the “Silent Sports Car” was still a sensational innovation among high-performance cars.

Early in 1934 the paper I wrote for road and track-tested a Bentley demonstrator, which was delivered to our office on the Byfleet side of Brooklands by a uniformed chauffeur. We suggested he should be entertained at the Aero Club while we tested the car, only to be informed that, while he would not try to influence our opinions in any way, he was not allowed to leave the Bentley. So he sat in the back of this 31/2-litre silver-grey open tourer, holding his peaked cap as we sped round the Byfleet Banking at over 90 mph. . .

The test-car (Reg ALU 321) had already run 21,000 miles and was about to be pensioned off and relegated to the R-R Chauffeurs’ School. The figures we obtained are interesting, though they may not be as accurate as those measured more recently by GC. They were, for 10-30 mph in top gear, 7.0 sec; in third gear, 5.0 sec; and in second gear, 4.2 sec. From standing starts, 0-50 mph in 10.2 sec; 0-60 mph in 14.6 sec; 0-70 mph in 20.8 sec; and 0-80 mph in 28.2 sec. A 1/4-mile from rest was achieved in 21.8 sec, and a 1/2-mile in 34.4 sec.

These were averages of two runs, by a driver scarcely used to the Bentley (the delivery driver refused to do them as he felt he had an unfair advantage) and we had but five minutes’ experience of the car. Speeds in the gears were 59 mph in second and 80 mph in third — at peak engine speed of 4500 rpm these were 55 and 75 mph respectively.

A full lap of Brooklands was not possible as the Track was being repaired, but the maximum speed was 97 mph, in near-silence. Water temperature was never over 75°C, and we got approximately 16 mpg. The steering wheel asked 2.1 turns lock-to-lock, turning circle being measured at 39ft 3in left, 42ft 4in right. I have happy recollections of this Bentley and, at the age of 21, was pleased that my write-up was reprinted by Bentley Motors.